Friday 16 December 2016

Saving the best for last?

Oh, cruel irony! Having killed my Olympus Tough yesterday, this morning I had my best snorkel ever – yes, better than the Great Barrier Reef, than Galapagos, than Tahiti. And all I had were my eyes to see it, and my brain to remember it. Ouch. So primitive. (So I've had to use Dai Mar's photos for that.)
We transferred from the skiff to a local Captain Zodiac rigid inflatable, captained by flamboyant Preston and ably assisted by big and initially enigmatic Buddha up the front in his reflective sunglasses. He was the sealife whisperer, and started by conjuring up a couple of humpbacks as we roared out along the coast on a sparkling blue-sky morning. They waved their tails at us, and we continued to Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook (“a famous cartographer” Buddha explained) was murdered in 1779 – along with 33 Hawaiians, Preston murmured, whose names are not recorded on the white-painted obelisk by the water’s edge.
Here we dropped into the slightly cool water to be rewarded by simply stunning snorkelling: the water crystal clear (except where it was blurred by colder fresh water seeping up out of the rock, after filtering down from the volcano peaks), the light strong and bright, and the fish abundant both in number and variety. Schools of brilliant yellow tangs, big turquoise parrot fish biting at the coral, see-through trumpet fish, orange slate-pencil and black spiny sea-urchins, and all sorts of other fish I can’t name – black, orange, blue, yellow, striped, cross-hatched, spotted. All were busy going about their business – or, in the case of one school, dozing on the bottom. It was fascinating and I was enthralled. And I didn’t even see the octopus! Brilliant.
Eventually, we were all hauled out, but then the outing turned a bit dramatic. Buddha noticed a couple struggling to right their capsized kayak, stripped off, dived in and – rather show-offily, I thought – swam underwater to where they were thrashing about, looking agitated. He righted the kayak, and got the woman aboard, but when the man capsized it again climbing on, ushered them to our skiff where they gratefully accepted the offer of a lift. He then tied on the kayak and rode it behind the boat, meaning he was handy to rescue our sun umbrella when it flew off, Preston having forgotten to take it down in all the excitement.
We returned the couple and their sub-standard kayak to shore with a few stern words from Buddha to the renter, and then zoomed away again, having accomplished our second marine rescue in three days. Karma rewarded us with a manta ray sighting, spotted by Buddha naturally and prompting a spectacularly tight 360 by Preston; and then some spinner dolphins including a baby as we returned to the Safari Explorer.
The next event was a taster in an outrigger canoe which, on a calm day with smooth seas, seemed a reassuringly stable craft and much easier to propel than a kayak – six paddles in the water will do that, of course. [Interestng note for NZ readers: waka is the canoe; ama is the outrigger.] Then I explored the town of Kona, which really didn’t take long – it’s very touristy, full of shops selling paintings, Hawaiian shirts and sarongs, shell ornaments, jewellery and Kona coffee. There’s a small, plain-looking palace, and a church with a model of a brig inside whose story I skipped (sorry) – for me, the interest was in the splendid trees along the seafront, and all the local life on the shore and the water. It was training day for half a dozen young outrigger teams, who were stimulatingly enthusiastic.
There was more enthusiasm that night as Dai Mar presented the slideshow he’d been building up all week. He’d got some really good shots of us all, and the fish, sunsets, people and activities, and there was a lot of “Oh yes! I’d forgotten that!” It’s a nice touch that UnCruise gives us a memory stick with all this on, since our own memories are clearly so deficient.

Our last dinner, our last night, and there was some carousing and drinking, some singing around the piano, and self-congratulation on what a good group we were. With some truth, I do agree: it doesn’t always happen, in my experience, that strangers gel so well. I think it’s an UnCruise thing: their type of cruise attracts mainly active, positive people, no matter their age. It’s a definite plus.

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